her own. Loud, brash, unconditional love, not the kind of love that was earned by good behavior and hefty bankrolls. She sighed, because this part of getting to know someone in order to ascertain compatibility was always the most uncomfortable. “I’m adopted.”

“Oh.” He glanced at her as he adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. “I didn’t know that.”

Considering how much Jackson adored her surgeon father and socialite mother, she couldn’t help but wonder if he was disappointed she didn’t share the sacred DeVign genes.

“It’s not really a big deal until I’m around a family like the Corcarellis,” Trish continued. “Then I start to wonder what my biological family is like.”

Road noise swirled between them as she waited patiently for his reaction.

He snorted. “If you ask me, that’s dangerous thinking. I mean obviously you’re better off now. Look how lucky you are. Hell, I’d stand in line to be adopted by the DeVigns.”

She bet he would. “Yes, well, there’s something to be said for knowing where you came from. Don’t you think?”

“If I came from a family like the Corcarellis, I’d never want to know. Somebody needs to gift them with a lifetime supply of birth control so they stop polluting the gene pool.” He laughed.

She clenched her hands in her lap and stared out the window at the shadowy shapes and lighted signs flying by. “I’ll skip the nightcap, Jackson. Just drop me off at home.”

“Oh. Hey.” He slowed at a stoplight and stretched an arm across the top of her headrest. “I was kidding. I mean, they’re accommodating enough. They’re just rough around the edges, and it takes some getting used to.” He smiled as he leaned closer, and for a second, hope bubbled in Trish’s chest. “For a guy like me who’d rather have non-anesthetized surgery than kids, it’s a real stretch to relate.”

Every one of those stupid, hope-filled bubbles popped. “The light is green,” she said, redirecting his attention to the road and her attention to the nauseous pit in her stomach.

She was tired of this; tired of getting her hopes up only to have them trashed. At thirty-two, according to her calculations, eight good baby-making years remained. She’d spent the last two years methodically dating, hoping for a ring and white dress. But when she imagined a lifetime with each prospect, and concluded it was more like a life sentence, she lowered her standards. After all, she was an independent woman who didn’t need a man to help her raise a child. But she did need a man to help her make one…and for more than his sperm. She wanted his family history, too. The impersonal, anonymity of creating a baby with a bodiless stranger from a donor clinic wouldn’t work. She wanted her baby to have a complete medical history, intergenerational stories, and at least a quarterly look at his or her dad.

“Are you sure you don’t want that nightcap?” He parked in front of her house and flashed a suggestive grin.

“I’m sure.” She’d rather have a baby. “My stomach isn’t feeling right.”

“Maybe it was the cake,” he said as she opened the car door. “Who likes anise birthday cake anyway?”

She stood up and spun around. “I like anise birthday cake.” And with that, she slammed the car door on his bewildered face.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he sputtered out his open window as she clip-clopped around the front of the car to her stone walk.

Don’t bother, she thought.

Talk about a disappointing night. She should’ve had a second piece of cake.

* * *

Tony pulled the burlap tight around the wingchair’s retied springs and fired staples from his gun into the wooden frame. He could tell a lot about a person by the condition of their furniture. This particular piece belonged to a newly minted chief of radiology and his wife, a friend of Trish. Before Tony could repair the split and crumbling frame, he’d had to remove three layers of dollar-table, outdated fabric, foul-smelling Dacron, and way too much foam rubber. The haphazard upholsteries told a rags-to-riches tale. When Tony was done, these once sad and neglected chairs would flank the finest fireplace in a Trish DeVign-decorated home. Something that didn’t come cheap.

“Why don’t you ever answer your freaking phone? Ma’s been trying to get ahold of us all day.” Angie barged into the garage like she owned the place… Well, technically she did. It was attached to her house, but Tony paid rent to use the space as his sometimes-upholstery shop. He couldn’t very well upholster sofa-sized items in his downtown efficiency.

He kept his eyes on the staple line. “What’s wrong with your phone?”

“My phone? I was onsite all day. You expect me to hear a phone ringing over a floor sander? You weren’t here, were you? You were out on your bike.”

“Maybe. What’s it matter to you?”

“It matters, Tony. It matters.”

That’s what the women in his life—and there were a lot of them—were always telling him. Nonna, Ma, Angie, and his aunts were forever pressing him to sell the bike, cover the tattoos, and quit playing with furniture so he could take his place at the helm of Pop’s carpentry company.

No, thank you.

Becoming a carpenter and taking over the business hadn’t done Angie any good. The responsibility robbed her of free time and fun. Besides, Tony already owned his own business, contracting out his upholstery services. The business was small and nondescript, which left his freedom intact.

“What’d Ma want?” he asked, rather than stoke his sister’s perennially pissy mood by defending his life’s direction.

“I don’t know. I can’t reach her now. The line’s busy. How hard is it to get call waiting and caller ID?”

For a woman who still couldn’t figure out the TV remote? Hard.

Strains of “Born to Be Wild” echoed above the air compressor.

“That’s her,” Angie yelled, pointing in the direction of his phone.

“You answer it,” Tony said, preferring to spare himself the gory details of which cousin said what, more than a week ago at Nonna’s birthday party, and why aunts X, Y, and Z were no longer speaking.

Angie kicked his thigh with her steel-toed boot as she walked by on her way to answer his phone. “Why is nothing ever important to you?”

As he listened to his sister answer their mother’s call, he winced at his stinging thigh and traded the staple gun for an old-fashioned hammer and tacks. Wailing on the metal wedges would help. He had news for his too- serious-for-her-own-good sister, lots of things were important to him. Fun topped the list, with happiness running a close second, followed by friends who fed the fun and happiness.

“Oh God, no,” Angie sobbed, and then wailed. “Tony, Nonna has ovarian cancer.”

The mallet slipped from his hand.

As much as they drove him crazy, family was important, too.

An hour later, Tony was packed like a sardine into Nonna’s galley kitchen with a collection of aunts and uncles who watched the stricken woman stir sauce despite the horrible news.

“I give it to God,” she announced, raising one palm to the ceiling. “I no take it back.”

There were a few amens, but as Tony looked around the room, he was struck by the paleness of the usually olive faces. And there were tears, but only when Nonna wasn’t looking. And there were whispers of sentences he couldn’t quite catch.

Stage IV. Too late for surgery. Chemo. Radiation. Prayers.

He felt sick, like he swallowed a jar of lug nuts and couldn’t cough them up, let alone crap them out. And when the bowls of food started around the table, he couldn’t eat.

He pushed away his chair, knowing the bathroom was the only rational escape. If he left the house, someone was bound to snitch, and once again he’d be a disappointment; the Corcarelli son not man enough to face the truth. Away from the heavy emotions, he flipped the lid down on the toilet and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. Rather than dwell on the turmoil twisting his guts in knots, he’d dwell on his fantasy football team’s lousy performance. His wide receivers tanked, and there were never any good ones available after the draft.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Tony looked at the door. “Occupied.” And yet he couldn’t stay much longer, knowing someone waited, unless he wanted to look like an inconsiderate pig. So he hurried up and dropped a running back, picked up a

Вы читаете Baby by Design
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату